Jonathan Nakhla, a former Neurosurgeon at Mobile Infirmary, was found guilty of murder for the death of the University of South Alabama medical student Samantha Thomas in March 2023. Nakhla was driving his luxury sports car on the west I-65 Service Road around 12:30 a.m. Aug. 1, 2020, when the car left the road and crashed into a ditch. The crash caused Thomas to be partially decapitated and she was pronounced dead on the scene.
Judge Ben Brooks said sentencing is one of the most difficult things done in the justice system, but that it must be applied equally to all, poor or wealthy, influential or not.
“The defendant’s family are God-fearing people,” said Brooks. “The separation of the defendant from his family weighs heavily on me but what weighs more heavily is this tragedy of Samantha Thomas. Samantha will never get married and Mr. Thomas will never have grandchildren”
Prior to his sentencing, Nakhla apologized to Thomas’s family. He said he would switch places with Thomas if he could.
“I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter,” Nakhla said. “I think about her, pray for her, pray for you. It is difficult to look over there just cause of all the devastation that occurred. No family should have to endure what you’re going through. I’m a father too. I think about my own children and it brings me back to you and I just, I truly am sorry.”
Samantha Thomas’ family spoke to WKRG following the sentencing. Harold Thomas, father of Samantha, said he wished Nakhla said he was sorry earlier. Christiana Hoff, stepmother of Samantha, echoed Harold’s thoughts.
“Of course he’s going to apologize, but he should have done it a lot,” said Hoff. “You know, we we’ve been back and forth, Harold and I for 2 1/2 years on many motion. Many, many motion hearings for this case. Not one time was Jonathan Nakhla ever attempted? To message us or to look at us. I mean, he always looked away. So, yeah, he’s going away. He’s going to the penitentiary.”
“You know, nothing’s ever going to make this right,” said Jennifer Thomas, sister of Samantha. “Nothing’s ever going to bring Sam back. It’s something we’re always going to have to live with. And you know, there was a lot of talk today about everyone else knowing his remorse and how sorry he felt. That’s the first time. We’ve ever heard that.”
Nakhla and Thomas were seen shortly before the crash on surveillance video drinking at a pool at the apartment complex they both lived at, according to a traffic homicide investigator during the preliminary hearing. A toxicologist took the stand for the prosecution and testified that he believed Nakhla had a blood alcohol level between 0.11 and 0.125.
During the trial, Nakhla’s defense claimed a man turned in front of Naklha, causing him to lose control of the vehicle. Surveillance video from a local hotel showed the man turn into the hotel parking lot and seconds later Nakhla’s car can be seen speeding by.
The jury ultimately found Nakhla guilty of Thomas’ murder.
WKRG News 5 has a story with all the details about the trial.